Mom’s Special Lebanese Rice

Lebanese rice is such an essential part of our table that I’m sheepish that I haven’t shared it here before…. My mom’s version is so special and delicious that it’s as at home on your weeknight menu as it is the holiday table.

Lebanese rice with pine nuts and mushrooms, MaureenAbood.com

The attributes my mom has passed on to me are legion. Among them:

  1. A love of family.
  2. About half of her calm nature (the other half, all Dad).
  3. A petite frame (but NOT the silken black hair, darn it).
  4. A fascination with the world of Lebanese cuisine, and her many ways of making food taste delicious.

Cinnamon sticks in a jar

Crispa vermicelli noodles

Toasted Pine Nuts, MaureenAbood.com

If I were to make a recipe file, or say, a blog post or a cookbook, of the best recipes my mom makes, there we would have a treasure trove of gold. Like so:

  1. Mom’s Pie Crust (Thanksgiving necessity). And not just the crust, but the rope pinching move she uses to crimp the pies. When it comes down to it, crimping the crust in the way she taught me is one of my life’s pleasures.
  2. Sheik al Mehsheh topped with mozzarella cheese. Brilliant woman.
  3. Cranberry sauce studded with walnuts and fruit, made and eaten, then made and eaten again, and then again and again, from November 1 through January 1.
  4. Oven fried chicken. This impacts our lives the most (well, that and the unfailing love that is never, ever anything but kind—that too) because we make it so often. I see why she did too, when we were growing up. It comes together fast and always tastes wonderful.
  5. Grandma’s cookies. A spice cookie studded with dried apricots and raisins (no, I haven’t shared this one yet).
  6. Deep golden brown color on the baklawa, which we will discuss here very soon.
  7. Toast all of the nuts when you do it, then freeze them in little baggies that way. Now they’re ready when you are for rice, salads, hushweh, all of it. Not a recipe, but a trick of her trade.
  8. Mom’s Special Rice, a mélange of Lebanese cinnamon-scented rice with mushrooms, scallions, and a shower of toasted pine nuts.

The list does not end (oh, the chocolate buttercream which never turns out grainy but did in those photos…), but we’ll pause with it here because I feel a tremendous responsibility for not having shared the rice with you as of yet. The Grandma’s cookies held close to the vest I don’t feel as badly about (they’re good, but they’re spice, and in my world spiced sweets rarely win; here’s how I feel about that).

But the rice? Lebanese vermicelli rice scented with cinnamon is the basis for so many plates that keeping our version of the rice from its fully realized life out here with you is…criminal.

Rice with cinnamon sticks

Sauteed mushrooms and scallions in a saute pan

Mushroom and cinnamon rice garnished with toasted pine nuts

Mom has always studded the already delicious, simple Lebanese cinnamon rice with the incredibly savory addition mushrooms, garlic, scallions, and pine nuts. She uses Uncle Ben’s rice, without apology (you can use basmati or any long grain rice and it will cook up just fine).

You might want to start auditioning Mom’s Special Rice right now for Thanksgiving and Christmas, because it’s as weeknight-worthy as it is holiday table. Meanwhile, I’ll keep at my list to see what other Mom-treasures need to see the light of day here with you….

Cinnamon rice with mushrooms and pine nuts

Mom's Special Lebanese Rice

Maureen Abood
My mom uses Uncle Ben’s rice, without apology. You can use basmati or any long grain rice and it will cook up just as nicely. The addition of broken vermicelli is optional. The recipe scales up very easily for a big crowd. Also, you can make this dish in advance and reheat it with more broth and another handful of freshly cut scallions. Hold to garnish with pine nuts until serving.
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

For the rice:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
  • 1/4 cup vermicelli, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain rice
  • Big pinch kosher salt
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

For the melange:

Instructions
 

  • In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the oil and butter over medium high heat until foamy. Add the vermicelli, if using, and cook until the pasta is deeply toasted. Add the rice and salt, and stir to coat it with the oils. Tuck in the cinnamon sticks, add the broth, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the rice is soft and has fully absorbed the broth, about 20 minutes.
  • In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat until it is hot, but not smoking. Add as many of the sliced mushrooms as will fit in one layer. Leave them to cook without disturbing them for a few minutes, to encourage browning, then stir and continue cooking until they are nicely browned but still somewhat firm. Push the mushrooms to one side and sauté the remaining mushrooms in this same way if there wasn’t room in the first round. Add more olive oil if the pan gets dry.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and scallions, reserving a small handful of the sliced green scallion for garnish. Cook just until the scallions are starting to wilt. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  • Stir the rice into the mushroom mixture, discarding the cinnamon sticks. Drizzle with more olive oil, and taste. Add more salt if needed. The rice can now rest, covered, on the stovetop until you are ready to eat (up to several hours). Just warm it over low heat.
  • Garnish with the raw scallions and pine nuts, and serve immediately.
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40 Comments

  1. Gloria M Traylor on November 1, 2017 at 12:22 PM

    We use ground beef instead of mushrooms. Delicious.

    • Maureen Abood on November 1, 2017 at 4:20 PM

      We use ground beef in hushweh, very similar and yes, so delicious!

  2. Mark Bond-Webster on November 1, 2017 at 12:25 PM

    Hi Maureen, Lovely recipe. I do one similar, omitting mushrooms and substituting raisins/golden raisins (= sultanas, this side of the water!) and Lebanese 5 spice mix for the cinnamon. If I am feeling lavish, I throw in ground lamb as well. And I always cook mine it in chicken broth for the richness. Obviously the lamb/chicken broth makes it unsuitable for vegetarians. But it is lovely….

    • Maureen Abood on November 1, 2017 at 4:19 PM

      That does sound lovely!

  3. Mary on November 1, 2017 at 1:29 PM

    Do I use the vermicelli sold in the Italian section of the supermarket?

    • Maureen Abood on November 1, 2017 at 4:18 PM

      Yes, that works great!

  4. Sue T on November 1, 2017 at 3:50 PM

    I had a simplified version I used to cook for my room mates in college, included cut up Cornish hens. Haven’t done for a while. Have to try this!

  5. Betsy on November 1, 2017 at 4:44 PM

    Love it and love your mama ❤️!

    • Maureen Abood on November 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM

      Love you!

  6. Rickeia Ally Lessig on November 1, 2017 at 4:55 PM

    My mother always used chopped/diced lamb & beef that she diced by hand (she would never use ground). She would always bring a large pot to my house for Thanksgiving dinner!

    • Maureen Abood on November 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM

      Absolutely delicious!

  7. Cheryl Hage Perez on November 3, 2017 at 10:31 PM

    It’s one of my favorites! I also use diced lamb and basmati.! Thanks for sharing!

    • Maureen Abood on November 4, 2017 at 8:02 AM

      Delicious!

  8. Laura F on November 4, 2017 at 3:30 PM

    Just made this rice dish last night. It’s DELICIOUS! I used jasmine rice and baby bella mushrooms. I can’t wait to serve it again to friends and family. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

    • Maureen Abood on November 6, 2017 at 2:44 PM

      I’m so glad to hear it, thank you!

  9. Dawn Nasser on November 5, 2017 at 5:13 AM

    Love the recipe. I do the same thing and I will embellish with what is available and appeals given the rest of the meal … sometimes mushrooms, sometimes raisins, sometimes parsley etc. But what really stood out to me was your comment about other creations, “Sheik al Mehsheh topped with mozzarella cheese. Brilliant woman.” First, you are right, simple but brilliant! I love to take the original dish and add some twist from another culture and I have done that many times with Lebanese food; especially because I am living in Lebanon presently and at times I have difficulty finding ingredients for American and/or other dishes not Lebanese. So, I have taken to using the original Lebanese recipe and putting another cultural twist on it to satisfy my craving for, say, Mexican. You would be surprised how resourceful a woman can be when faced with a craving!
    Just discovered your blog and I will follow it to see what you are up to. I am also from Michigan and love the northern part of the state … especially northwest.

    • Maureen Abood on November 6, 2017 at 2:45 PM

      I LOVE this, thank you! And we share a love of northwest Michigan, beautiful! Warm regards to you in Lebanon…

  10. Christine Delaney Kennedy on November 16, 2017 at 10:53 PM

    Adding this to my Thanksgiving menu Maureen, looks delicious! I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!

    • Maureen Abood on November 19, 2017 at 9:51 PM

      Happy Thanksgiving Christine!

  11. Alexis Hibbler on November 19, 2017 at 10:45 AM

    Just made this, it was delicious! I love the subtle flavor imparted to the rice/vermicelli by the cinnamon. As a vegetarian, I’ve been stuck in a beans and rice rut, so this was exactly what I needed. I also added thinly sliced brussel sprouts which were a delicious addition (and gave more lovely color). I will definitely be adding this to my repertoire, I can see this being a great base for any number of sauteed or roasted veggies.

  12. Dorie on November 8, 2018 at 6:39 PM

    Putting together my menu for thanksgiving and saw this post. Looks great! One question can this be made a day ahead and reheated?

    • Maureen Abood on November 8, 2018 at 6:43 PM

      Hi Dorie–yes, just add a little chicken broth or salt and water to the rice mixture when reheating. And hold off on adding the nuts until just before serving.

  13. Joyce L. on November 9, 2018 at 4:19 AM

    How can I purchase just the mint salt without garlic separately? Do you have a local store to make purchases?

    • Maureen Abood on November 9, 2018 at 5:46 AM

      Hi Joyce–when you place your order for the set of Mint Salts (here), indicate in the gift message field that you want two Favorite Mint Salts, without garlic. You’re going to love the mint salt! We’ll keep an eye out for your order and I’ll make sure it’s with mint salt, no garlic.

  14. Aunt Anne on December 3, 2018 at 9:08 AM

    Dear Maureen, do you soak the (Uncle Ben’s ) rice before cooking ? My mother always did, and a friend just wrote that she does this as well. Supposedly, it removes the starch that makes the rice mushy instead of “al dente.”
    Last night I served it with your recipe for stuffed baby eggplants, and it was a big hit. I rinsed the rice, and didn’t soak for long, and cooked it with less water and with the lid off, and it didn’t get mushy. I added a bit of curry this time– just to experiment– but I do prefer the cinnamon flavor. Your recipes remind me of the many wonderful dinners Mary served us—and that taught you so well. Precious memories !

    • Maureen Abood on December 6, 2018 at 11:31 AM

      Aunt Anne, this is very interesting–I would soak other rice but haven’t soaked the Uncle Ben’s rice. Sometimes, it’s mushy. So I’ll try rinsing! Thanks so much for your note and tips!

  15. Shelly David on April 9, 2019 at 5:56 PM

    I’ve never had it with mushrooms, looks delicious! Our family used to use very finely chopped gizzards. Thanks for sharing!

    • Maureen Abood on April 11, 2019 at 3:38 PM

      Thanks Shelly–so good!

  16. Ellen Abood on May 9, 2019 at 3:25 PM

    Dear Maureen
    Your recipes and food taste just like my mother’s cooking used to taste. I have very few of her recipes so I feel that now I do. I love your web site.

    Ellen Abood

    • Maureen Abood on May 14, 2019 at 2:12 PM

      Ellen Abood–this is the same name as one of my dear first cousins! I’m touched and overjoyed to know my recipes taste like your mother’s! That’s what it’s all about…. Thank you and keep me posted on your cooking!

  17. Elizabeth Grey on June 21, 2019 at 10:01 AM

    what can you use instead of mushrooms? I just don’t enjoy mushrooms that much. Other then that it looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it.

    • Maureen Abood on June 21, 2019 at 2:30 PM

      Hi Elizabeth–great question. You can absolutely substitute other delicious options for the mushrooms. Try zucchini, green or yellow, cut in thicker chunks like mushrooms, sauteed in the same manner as the mushrooms. Red bell pepper is also excellent here, and colorful. For the red bell pepper version, I add a hit of spice with cayenne and chili oil as it pairs so nicely with the seared pepper.

  18. Donna Hallal on August 10, 2019 at 5:00 PM

    You’re an amazing chef, this rice dish was delicious! I didn’t have vermicelli so I used orzo. Made this with your chicken shawarma recipe. Thank you so much, I love your very easy to follow recipes w/ photos, blogs…wonderful!! I have your book but having access to your online digital version is very helpful!

    • Maureen Abood on August 12, 2019 at 7:31 AM

      Thank you so very much Donna!

  19. Elaine Eassa on November 27, 2019 at 5:15 AM

    My aunt and Tita always used Uncle Ben’s rice which always came out so darn tasty. I attributed cooking the pasta and pine nuts in butter as the culprit. Your recipes remind me of my childhood 60+ years ago…and my determination to keep their legacy alive!

    • Maureen Abood on November 27, 2019 at 10:46 AM

      That makes me smile Elaine! We’ve got to keep their legacy alive, so precious!

  20. Jane George on April 11, 2020 at 10:00 AM

    My Lebanese Mother in Law, made a similar dish, she always rinsed her Uncle Ben’s and used Orzo instead of Vermicelli. Think I will be making this during this stay at home time. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful recipes.

    • Maureen Abood on April 11, 2020 at 8:38 PM

      Wonderful Jane, thank you!

  21. A Arcelay on July 10, 2022 at 9:31 PM

    I would like to know your mom’s cranberry sauce with walnuts and fruits. Thanks

    • Maureen Abood on July 19, 2022 at 2:48 PM

      Yes! Find it here!

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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!

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